… whether some things are thought through before one opens one’s mouth.
Our Federal Government intends to introduce legislation that will see parents lose welfare payments for up to three months if their children are found to be habitual truants.
I’m sorry, I know I’m only a humble teacher, but even I can see that not only won’t it work, but it misses the point.
Firstly, since when has any principal had this discussion with a student?
Principal: “Why are you skipping school, Johnny?”
Johnny: “Because my parents are on welfare, sir.”
A quick Google search uncovers articles such as this one that remind us there are multiple reasons for student truancy. Family dysfunction, cultural misunderstandings, substance abuse, bullying, poor health, and (goodness, gracious!) poor quality schooling and/or student disengagement are just some factors. Family poverty or ineffective parenting skills are only one piece of the puzzle.
Secondly, given the multitude of reasons for truancy, the government’s proposed “solution” will fail because in many cases it will not address the root cause of the problem. Stopping welfare payments is an easy way to satisfy voting taxpayers and give the appearance that something proactive is being done for the good of all. A far more challenging, yet effective solution would be to drop the “Digital” from the government’s Digital Education Revolution and broaden the revolution to bring learning, not just the technology, into the 21st Century. Has anyone considered that truancy would be reduced if all schools were safe places that every student wanted to attend?
Finally, this breaks the first rule of good classroom management, namely label the behaviour, not the child. This policy perpetuates a stereotype that truants come from families on welfare, or vice versa, that families receiving welfare payments produce truants. Is there evidence that none of Australia’s truanting students come from well-off families? Or is it that their truancy is not an issue because their parents aren’t costing the taxpayers of this country in social security? Even if majority of truants come from low socio-economic backgrounds, they need support, not punitive punishment. For a political party known as the champion of Australia’s working and lower classes, this policy could be considered to be not just ill-conceived, but offensive.
As a postscript, a survey of visitors to Yahoo!7 indicates that more than two-thirds of people think parents should lose welfare payments “for their kids wagging school”. Of course, this survey has all the statistical integrity of a Today Tonight or A Current Affair phone poll.
Perhaps this is a topic that I should have treated with the contempt it deserves.